How to track persistent harassment

by May 2, 2024

Track Persistent Harassment

How to track persistent harassment as this can be crucial to dealing with the perpetrators of sexism and harassment

 

Many people are not aware of when certain behaviours spill into harassment.

Definitions

Harassment is defined as:

words or behaviour that threatens, intimidates, or demeans a person. Harassment is unwanted, uninvited, and unwelcome and causes nuisance, alarm, or substantial emotional distress without any legitimate purpose.  

Sexual harassment is behaviour of a sexual nature.

The Council of Europe issued the first ever widely accepted definition of  sexism

Any act, gesture, visual representation, spoken or written words, practice or behaviour based upon the idea that a person or a group of persons is inferior because of their sex, which occurs in the public or private sphere, whether online or offline.”  

Sexism frequently is not overt or aggressive. However, sometimes patterns of disturbing or demeaning behaviour can have a significant and negative impact on an individual especially if there is a power dynamic at play.

When someone is physically assaulted, yelled at or abused in public it is very clear. One moment of extreme physical abuse carries more legal weight than a year of covert intimidation  Stealth bullying is very hard to audit and to prove.

This why keeping records is important, but for some the psychological impact of dealing with the cumulative impact of subtle sexism and harassment can be too overwhelming. This is why it’s important to look for support as early on as possible.

Benevolent sexism

Benevolent sexism is deeply embedded in our male-coded systems.  It is the basis of the way we do business, ostensibly to protect women but the main reason is to maintain the system. Hidden in what appear to be caring messages ” She’s just had a baby so she won’t want to travel”  or “She’s married she won’t want a 3-month international assignment” there are long-term career repercussions.

Benevolent sexism also covers: being interrupted, having our ideas hijacked, being called pet names, or not having our credentials taken seriously.

 

How to track persistent harassment

Reasons women don’t report sexual harassment or sexist behaviour

  1. Women are too disturbed or traumatised to take practical action when they experience this type of behaviour.
  2. They diminish the significance of it internally, especially if they work in a culture that allows this to go on. “They were only joking ” or  “Don’t be so sensitive.
  3. They fear escalation or retaliation.
  4.  Women are afraid of the repercussions on their careers.

But tracking persistent harassment can be crucial to dealing with the perpetrators of sexism and harassment.

Here’s a guide on how to track persistent harassment

1. Document everything… EVERY little thing

Keep detailed records of each instance of harassment, including dates, times, locations, and a detailed description of what happened. If other people observed these incidents too, ask them to validate the situation preferably in writing. Sadly, some won’t do that.

Ana had noticed that Hugo interrupted her frequently in meetings but became aware that the intensity had increased. He also started making negative and demeaning comments about her presentation style with sexist remarks about “women talk a lot.

Manterruptions” are considered to be a sexist micro-aggression and had become a pattern of behaviour that disturbed Ana and made her feel uncomfortable. As a result of Hugo’s constant interruptions Ana had stopped speaking up in meetings, which was damaging her visibility and potentially her career prospects.

2. Maintain a Log

Create a harassment log where you can record each incident chronologically. Include relevant details such as the harasser’s identity (if known), witnesses, and any actions you took in response.

3. Curate evidence

It’s important to save any physical evidence of harassment, such as letters, gifts, emails, images, or objects left for you. If the harassment occurs online, take screenshots or save digital copies of messages, comments, or posts. Store these in the cloud or on a personal device rather than a professional device.

4. Refer internally

This is the moment to establish what your company policy and reporting protocols are. Refer the issue internally either to your Manager, HR or via any system your organisation has in place including a Hotline or access to Confidential Counsellors.

If there is no official system, speak to your boss and HR department and confirm the complaint in writing with the details you have been curating.

5. Consider legal advice

If the harassment is severe or persistent, and you are getting nowhere internally consider seeking legal advice. A lawyer can help you understand your rights and options in your location, and they may advise you on how to gather evidence effectively.

Not all geographies treat harassment, sexism, and sexual harassment under criminal law, so it’s best to be informed.

6. Report to authorities

Depending on the nature of the harassment, you may need to report any incidents to relevant authorities such as the police. One act of extreme physical harassment can be illegal.

How to step-up, speak up and self-advocate – 3 Plus International

If the harassment occurs online, use privacy settings to limit the harasser’s access to your information. Block or mute the harasser if possible, and consider using tools or apps that allow you to document and report abusive behavior.

8. Seek Support

Talk to friends, family, or a counsellor about what you’re experiencing. Having a support system can help you cope with the stress of harassment and provide validation for your experiences.

9.  Create Boundaries

With less serious offences, set clear boundaries with the harasser and communicate them firmly and assertively. If they continue to harass you despite your boundaries, it strengthens your case for taking further action.

10.  Stay safe

Prioritise your safety at all times. If you feel threatened or unsafe, remove yourself from the situation and seek help from trusted individuals or authorities. Report the individual.

11. Follow Up

Keep track of any actions taken in response to your reports of harassment, such as investigations or disciplinary measures. Follow up with relevant parties to ensure that appropriate action is being taken.

Remember, dealing with harassment can be emotionally draining, so be kind to yourself and seek support when needed. You don’t have to go through it alone.

 

If your organisation wants to tackle sexism and harassment, get in touch NOW!

 

 

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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